Now that I’m on my own I have been forced to assimilate more with the culture around me.
I’ve been wanting to write about hillbillies for a while but it isn’t easy. Because the culture exists on a different plane that I haven’t reached yet. It’s a long slow fall towards the center of the earth.
If I HAD to sum things up with a few symbols I’d choose beer, whiskey, marijuana, beans, potatoes, corn bread, cast iron, dune buggies, family, nature, guns and mason jars. Sound boring? Well it is. It’s a boredom that causes one part of yourself to die while another part opens up.
The best way I can describe it is this…. Imagine you have to spend the next 8 hours listening to your slowest, least talkative friend while sitting on the hillside in a forest. He is going to tell you the story of how he built his house, board by board, brick by brick. You are going to sit there and listen.
Behind you are 48 cans of beer. To your right is a gigantic pipe stuffed with marijuana. You are free to partake but you neither drink nor smoke.
The story begins. You try hard to focus. ‘This will be great. I’m learning something.’ you tell yourself. ‘Maybe one day I’ll want to build a house and this information will be useful.’ For the next forty minutes your brain strains, trying to extract nutrients from the story.
Then you reach a cracking point. A feeling of unbearable restlessness builds up inside you. You panic and reach for a beer.
As you drink the story continues. Nail, board, nail board. It’s as boring as fuck but the beer is starting to relax you. You sink down a little into the boredom. Nail beer, nail beer. Board. House. It’s boring. It’s boring. You will survive. You reach for another beer.
But another hour and you want to get the fuck out of there. Seriously? Oh my fucking God. You know what? Maybe you’ll try that marijuana. You smoke it and start to notice how the leaves sway with the story.
Your mind breaks up like clouds and the story washes all over you. Is he talking about a house or is it a parable for your life? You look at your friend. Was he always this insightful? You’ve known him for many years and only now you’re seeing him for the first time? You lie back on the ground and realize he’s lying there too. You briefly consider making love to him then remember you aren’t gay. The story continues.
Clouds nails boards. Clouds nails boards. The story is more boring than ever but the boredom becomes a brown flood washing over you. Your body is the house. Your friend is rebuilding it. You are rushing away in the brown waters. The past is sweeping over you and forgotten scenes from your life start returning to your mind. How did you forget so much? You’ve lived your life in a daze, haven’t you? Distracting yourself with mental puzzles that ultimately meant nothing.
And now you’re solid. Seeing the world with new eyes. You look at your friend and he seems more real than ever before. He is a potato and you are one too. It’s beautiful.
Another hour passes. Nail, board, hoard, woard. The panic arises again. I can’t take this! And then a thought… WE ARE FREE BEINGS!!!! “We don’t have to sit here Buddy!” you scream. “We are to free to go!” Light flashes in your friend’s eyes and he starts running to the nearby trail where his dune buggy is parked. You run behind him. Exhilaration. You climb in while he drives, going faster and faster than ever before. It feels like bliss until you crash and then you are flying.
When at last you come to, you realize your friend is lying on the ground beside you. He is still telling you the story of how he built his house. Nail, board. Nail, board. Your head hurts and so does your body. But it will be alright. You lie there and listen. It’s a pretty good story after all.
This is how life in West Virginia feels to an outsider anyway. I don’t know how it feels to insiders and probably never will since ‘Don’t ask don’t tell.’ along with ‘Keep it Nasty!’ are the two mottos of the region. I try to make sense of it all but this world is so dense, dark, compacted and gravitous I sometimes feel I’m being buried alive. I start to panic. Then I reach for my pipe.*
But for reals its like I’m learning a new way of thinking. Less speed and more solid. I think its called patience. You just crack open a beer and observe while the people and things around you reveal their true nature.
* I don’t really have a pipe.